A beautiful race. That’s how it felt. Good pacing, lots of fluids, riding comfortably with the world champion and with a large lead to boot. I almost felt like I was loafing but one couldn’t be leading a race of this caliber and getting away with loafing? We were well past the half way point of the race. Negative splitting the bike seemed likely. Making the turn around and heading with the wind brought on speed with ease of effort and nobody was catching us. Then, the 1st hot day in Boise for the year threw a one, two punch that landed squarely on my jaw. I tried to shake it off. But my opponent was relentless, salt crystals formed all over my skin and even though I was flying with the wind at high speeds, the heat was wilting my stamina. In hindsight the only thing I could have done, would be to install an air conditioning unit on my bike.
Jumping in the cool water up at Lucky Peak welcomed a reprieve from the day’s heat. Starting the swim, it became evident that my warm up was not substantial enough. Taking it too easy had chilled me and I had trouble getting up to speed. Minimizing the damage, 3 leaders got away and I was pulling the pack. Not what I wanted to be doing. Throwing in a few surges to break up the drafting worked well and Craig Alexander and I broke away. At this point the pace felt pedestrian, but being near the front with a long day ahead is a good governor. Having a gap behind us meant those guys would have to do more work in the swim. Coming out of the water in 4th place with such a relaxed effort helped for a quick T1.
Onto the bike the first few pedal strokes were enough to know it was going to be a good day. Did I have a chain? Within the first few miles I had passed the leaders out of the swim and was leading the race. Something must be said for the blasts of air we bikers affectionately call the wind. The wind; obstructing forward progress, thick and heavy, throwing your bike this way then that way, forcing white knuckle grips, curse tainted gusts, caused bikers fits and blew them off roads. But I was OK with it, relax, flow with it and hide from it. I thought about being underwater and choosing the best streamline possible. Go ahead, make the race harder.
There was not too much excitement or any over extending and if I compared my effort to any other races this year; it was less. I was not alone however; Craig and I exchanged leads many times over the first 35 miles of the bike. At the turn around 25 miles in I could hardly believe our advantage. My effort was not fierce, so I assumed we were being hunted down. But Lieto was still a mile in our rear and then there was a large gap behind him. Also in our favor was the fact that we now had a long stretch with the wind! Sailing along with little effort at well over 30 mph was an awesome dichotomy from the howling head wind.
Wow, this is it, having the race that reaches my full potential is in my grasp.
Have you ever wondered what it feels like when you look the wrong way stepping into a street and get ran over by a bus? No, you say…ok… well me too; but this is how it felt when I turned onto Gowen Road sailing with the wind around mile 40 of the bike course. Striking, because this was the easiest part of the bike. I’m sauntering around on my bike, enjoying my race and WHAM! The heat says, “Haws ya doin?” in its best gangster, I’m gonna break your legs voice. I say, “I’m doing fine, leave me alone”. Still riding in 3rd place with Crowie and Lieto just a breath up the road I begin taking stock of my assets to pay back the Heat Gangster. To my horror I realize there’s not enough sweat left in me to pay him back…he promptly breaks my legs.
I settle into a leisurely pace that has me thinking a toddler with training wheels might pass me while trying to recover from the damage. Soft pedaling, taking a few big breathes and getting out of the aero bars does little to alleviate my heat debt. In the last 15 miles I lost 4 minutes to Crowie….ouch!
Lifeless heading into T2, it was nonetheless surprising and encouraging to be the 6th man there and with Lieto dropping out actually in 5th position. Hopeful to find my running legs I entered the transition area to a boisterous Boise crowd. My wife was near my bike/run exchange and I exclaimed, “Trop Chaud”, French code to Hortense for…holly crap its way too hot and its killing me.
The transition from bike to run did not come with a burst of energy or any sort of recharge. In fact, it only felt hotter and my mojo seemed to be running out. Keep going, you’ll work through it. You just need enough to give it an honest effort. But my worst fears were becoming a reality. If I continued on this path, pushing it, forcing it, ignoring the warning signs, I might finish but I would surely need some medical intervention to recover properly. It broke my heart as I slowed to those first few walking steps. My first thoughts were of letting down my family and friends. Being a coach for so many competing today and having my race abruptly conclude struck a dagger in my heart.
Even with the power of hindsight I’m having trouble solving the problem and finishing a strong race. Mother Nature conspired a perfect scenario for my worst nightmare; train and acclimate with a cool rainy spring then pounce with the first real hot day since Fall 09 for race day. I’ll have to start taking on salt tablets as soon as I’m on the bike. Se le vie! Live and learn.
To all the finishers and especially the Boise Y TriClub athletes…you guys are marvelous and you should be proud for surviving the race of attrition that was the Boise Ironman 70.3 2010.